From the Spring 2012 issue of Relationships magazine.
With the Lord, writes the apostle Peter, 1,000 years are like a day. For Young Life leader Jaimee Putich, the two years she watched and yearned and prayed for her high-school friend Janae Schallert felt like an eternity. And just as His patience brings us to repentance, Putich hoped her consistent presence in Janae’s life would draw her to the cross.
The story of this friendship shows once again how the love of Christ can capture any heart. Because today, one faithful leader’s wait is over and one more teenager’s real life has begun.
Putich and Janae first met when Janae was a sophomore at Canyon High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. Putich invited Janae, a standout athlete in softball and basketball, and her friend Sara to club. Putich could tell right away Janae was searching for something more.
“Even when Sara couldn’t make it [to club], Janae would come,” Putich, an elementary school teacher, said. “She was really hungry for something and needed stability, but it took her a long time to surrender.”
While Putich had a read on her high-school friend right away, it took Janae a little longer to figure out why an adult was hanging out at the softball field.
“I thought this Young Life thing was pretty cool, but I didn’t want to admit it,” Janae said. “I wasn’t doing too great. My mom had cancer and I was very depressed. This leader kept coming to my softball games and I was confused. Why would this person who I barely know want to come support me?” (Now, four years later, Janae said her mom “is in remission and doing great!”)
That summer, Putich took Janae and five of her basketball teammates to Woodleaf (a Young Life camp in California). Janae calls it “the place that changed my life.”
“A woman talked to us about God and Jesus and how precious we were to Him,” Janae recalled. “This happened every night. She would go on and on about how God sent His only Son to save us and how He died for our sins. The first couple of nights I only barely listened.”
The work crew displayed cardboard testimonies — three- or four-word phrases written on cardboard that describes the person’s life before and after Christ — for the campers at the end of the week. That deeply affected Janae.
“I felt like I was able to relate to every board,” she said. “It was crazy to think that all the people who had been helping around camp, who always had a smile on their face, had all felt the same way I did. This is where it hit me. I wanted whatever it was to change my life just like the work crew kids. At that moment, I knew there was something more out there.”
Janae said, during her junior year, she “felt like a whole new person.” She longed to return to camp and got her chance the next summer when she served on work crew at Lost Canyon (Young Life’s camp in Arizona). There, she decided it was time to make her heart’s decision public.
“I spent so many hours praying for Janae, sitting with her, grieving and not knowing what to say, taking her to camp and wishing with all my heart that it would stick, but over and over realizing that it was something I could never force,” Putich said.
“Her life taught me about surrender to the Lord. He’s faithful; you show up and He does the work. There is so much beauty in the struggle of it. Her testimony is a confirmation of my faith.”